On June 26th the Supreme Court ruled that DOMA's exclusion of state-sanctioned, same-sex marriages from the federal definition of marriage is unconstitutional in United States v. Windsor. This decision has now changed the rules on how employers administer health and benefits in states that recognize same-sex marriage.
Though only thirteen states and the District of Columbia currently permit same-sex marriage, employers may want to consider making changes to their benefit plans anyway. It is possible that in the near future, other states will sanction same-sex marriages and getting ahead of the trend could in the long run, create improved employee relations, and provide administrative simplicity.
Changes in benefits in states that recognize same-sex marriage
Before Windsor, offering special enrollment under HIPAA to a same-sex spouse was the employer’s decision, now employers are required to offer special enrollment to a same-sex spouse who is eligible for HIPAA coverage.
Before Windsor, employers were not required to offer COBRA to an employee's same-sex spouse or the children of a same-sex spouse enrolled in coverage under group health plans. Since the Supreme Court’s decision, however, employers are required to offer an employee's same-sex spouse and children independent COBRA election rights to continue coverage under group health plans.
Other plans and benefits that are affected by the recent decision include health savings accounts and dependent care assistance. Cafeteria plans, however, for the time being remain intact and are not subject to changes at this time.
Discuss your healthcare and benefit plans with a NY employment law attorney
Landmark legal decisions have a huge impact on society and also often greatly affect how a company does business. If you operate a business in a state that sanctions same-sex marriage, you should speak to an employment law attorney to determine how best to proceed in light of the Windsor decision. For 34 years, Stephen D. Hans & Associates has helped New York employers navigate the legal system and he can help you. To discuss your health plan and benefit programs or other employment law matters, contact our office or call 718-275-6700 to schedule an appointment.